Mad Marx: What the Hell are you clapping for?

Image Credit: Ellen Nugent

Outside of his role as a regular columnist for the University Observer, Sami El-Sayed is a member of People Before Profit.

The Ukraine-Russia War was something very few expected. The people of the world were shocked and horrified by the Russian invasion. What followed in the Western world, unfortunately, was a cynical strategy of manipulation by the media and political establishment.

Every journalist in every outlet came together in harmony with our political “leaders”, almost as if someone had handed them a little cheat sheet to read from. Of course, condemnation of the Russian invasion was and still is correct - but it can only be unnerving that in what is meant to be a democracy that not a single dissenting voice has managed to penetrate the wall of propaganda that’s been hammered into us for the past month. No voices in the media urging caution - and certainly no such thing as journalistic scepticism. Anything short of being gung-ho for Irish participation in the Ukrainian war effort is frowned upon.

The latest act in this ridiculous theatrical production was Zelensky’s address to the Dáil on April 6. Zelensky could have called for an all-out nuclear holocaust and for every Irish man, woman and child to fly to Ukraine and strap on a suicide vest, and the Dáil would have met him with a standing ovation. Of course they would - clapping was scheduled in the agenda, for the first time ever. Critical thought and independent thinking was never a factor to be considered. And so, when TDs - such as the four from People Before Profit, as well as independent Thomas Pringle - didn’t clap, there was astonishment. Their reasoning being, of course, the central role of NATO in instigating and feeding the fire of this conflict, an irrefutable fact now considered heresy in this environment. How dare they not play the part of obedient extras in the state’s march towards the smashing of our neutrality? The response was almost Stalinist - who used to have people executed for not clapping long enough for his own speeches. We may not be at firing squads, but you don’t need to kill people these days to remove them from the equation, just copiously lie about them - just look at what happened to Clare Daly.

Of course, discourse over clapping in the Dáil is not a new thing. The Dáil regularly clapped for workers during the pandemic and yet our healthcare system is just as much of an underfunded wreck now as it was before. So it is with Ukraine - penetrating the fog of idiotic denunciations of PBP as “Putin Before People” or some other such uncreative variations, PBP has been demanding that the government call for Ukraine’s debt to be cancelled. The government, however, whilst proclaiming to be supporters of Ukraine, have refused - citing that it would compromise the International Monetary Fund’s finances. The poor IMF! 

So, why are we all meant to be clapping again? What was so compelling about Zelensky that we must absolutely abandon our principles and debase ourselves before him? Zelensky got into power on the back of a campaign against “the oligarchs'', and soon it was found that he himself was in the pocket of those same oligarchs. Smuggling huge amounts of money overseas, he and a number of members of his government were named in the Pandora Papers, part of an international clique of elites that has offshored 32 trillion dollars. In his time, he has jailed political opponents and repressed ethnic minorities, feminists, and LGBTQ+ people in Ukraine. Since the war began, he has banned all political opposition on unproven and unevidenced charges of collaboration with Russia, and dissolved all media sources into one news agency which, coincidentally, was already very fond of him. Even Putin has never been so bold. Zelensky - liar, fraud, autocrat, and Western hero!

Truly the best of us, Zelensky. A man whose claims about the war he is waging are, of course, completely airtight in credibility. He may have lied to his own people for years, but there’s no way he would lie to the rest of the world. Don’t ask why the Ukrainian state announced a purge of “Russian sympathisers” from Bucha and then the next day all these dead bodies showed up in the town. It was obviously the Russians. Don’t ask why the missile that has killed dozens in Kramatorsk was a missile that the Russian military reportedly don’t use, with a Ukrainian serial number that was fired from Ukrainian territory. It was clearly the Russians who did it. Do not listen to medical officials saying that their policy is to castrate Russian prisoners of war. Don’t pay attention to the military leaders who say it is their policy to execute Russians who surrender. And whatever you do, do not read Ukrainian military doctrine which states that it uses civilian locations and infrastructure as military staging points to make it more difficult for Russians to fight them (known outside of the war in Ukraine as “having human shields”). 

And so, we are left with inviolable truths - Ukraine is a democracy. There are no fascists in Ukraine. Ukraine has committed no war crimes. And certainly, Ukraine has not been bombing the ethnic Russian population centres in the East of the country for the past 8 years. Zelensky may only have had the support of 21% of Ukrainians six weeks ago, but now he is their undisputed representative. No, you aren’t allowed to ask any questions about it - just stand up, be quiet, and clap your hands. Especially don’t ask why Zelensky was rebuked by the Greek parliament - it had nothing to do with his abuse of invitation to have two Nazis speak to the people of a country which has a history of fascist dictatorship.

The sad reality of this war is that there are no good guys, despite what we are being told to think. Russia is an imperialist power invading a neighbouring country for its own strategic aims, which it is coating in rhetoric of “denazification”. Ukraine is a Western client state and part of the West’s grand strategy to encircle Russia and contain it, which it is coating in rhetoric of “democracy”. So long as both sides pursued their respective strategies, a war in which Ukrainian people as a whole would suffer was inevitable. 

At the end of the day, the fog of war is impenetrable to us - we don’t truly know what is going on in Ukraine. Anyone could be committing any kind of atrocity. But we do know what is going on in Ireland, and it is politicians exploiting a conflict to abandon any pretence of neutrality we have, a move which will have real long term negative repercussions. They say they want a conversation on our neutrality - and I agree. But then why vote against a referendum placing neutrality into our constitution, which would have facilitated that very conversation? 

Something tells me the conversation the political establishment wants to have isn’t with us, the people, but amongst themselves, the elites.